Investing in a Better Mobile Web Experience - Is it Worth It?

By Denise Goluboff | Senior Web Strategist

No matter how organized, succinct and well-designed your website is, if it doesn’t display well on a smartphone or tablet, you may be missing a significant opportunity. While people are still using laptop and desktop computers at a large rate, mobile device adoption rates are growing fast, with no signs of abating.

How ubiquitous are mobile devices in the business world? According to The Untethered Executive, a joint report by Forbes and Google, 82 percent of business executives use a smartphone at work, and 2/3 of respondents say they would make online purchases using their mobile device. And, a whopping 65% of executives surveyed believe they will use their tablet more often than their traditional computer in the next 5 years.

The Untethered Executive

Source: The Untethered Executive

The growing trend towards smaller devices begs the question: what do visitors see when they access your website from a smartphone or tablet? How seamless is their experience? Many sites function normally on mobile, but it requires a microscope to make out the links, buttons and text, rendering those sites difficult to use and navigate.

The solution to this conundrum is called Responsive Design, a new approach in which your site dynamically adapts to the size of the screen it displays on. When the website displays with narrow margins such as those of a smartphone, large images respond by resizing automatically, buttons across the page might stack vertically so they are still large enough to read, and all elements on the page respond in kind.

Parallon
TREW created a Responsive Design web experience for Parallon Business Solutions. To the left you can see the desktop version, and on the right is how the screen responds to more narrow margins such as those of a smartphone.

Responsive Design has a “cool” factor, but there are other clear benefits:

  • Significant usability gains: Visitors can easily read and click on navigational buttons using their fingers and don’t have to zoom multiple times to see the options on the page.
  • Scalability: A responsive site will display appropriately no matter what the size of the device. Many smartphones and tablets vary in their size and dimensions, so it’s impossible to program for all permutations without using Responsive Design.
  • Large monitors: Even desktop users see improvements to your site if it’s responsive, since it ensures proper layout on very large or wide screen monitors.
  • One URL site-wide: There is no need for a mobile-specific URL or back-end programming to detect the device in use.

Despite the benefits, Responsive Design requires additional planning in the web design stage and additional programming and QA testing upon implementation, so it’s not without its costs. In fact, it can increase the price of a web redesign by 30 to 40 percent. This begs the question – should you go responsive or leave good enough alone?

Here are a few key factors to explore before determining if you’re ready to make the move to Responsive Design:

  • How much of your web traffic comes from mobile and tablets? Certain audiences are more likely to use these devices more often. For example, if your average web visitor is young and urban, Responsive Design is a no-brainer. A good rule of thumb is that if more than 1 in 10 users are accessing your site via mobile, you should consider Responsive Design to ensure you’re serving all your visitors well.
  • How transactional is your site? If visitors to your site are using it for e-commerce, detailed and complex searches, or other highly transactional tasks, Responsive Design could make a big difference in usability. Transactional behavior requires greater accuracy and attention from the user, and you’d be making their lives much easier with responsive screens and easier-to-read links and buttons on mobile.
  • Do you currently have a separate website for mobile, and is it a resource drain maintaining two separate URLs? With Responsive Design, you can enjoy the efficiency gains of maintaining just one device-agnostic URL. There is also the added benefit of allowing users to access all the rich content from the desktop site on their mobile phones (many mobile-only URLs offer a watered-down version of the main site’s content and navigation).
  • Do you have a highly competitive SEO field? Responsive Design allows you to have just one URL for all devices, which translates to better page rank than if you have a separate mobile URL versus desktop.
  • Do you have access to the right talent to pull off Responsive Design? The approach is fairly new, and requires the attention to detail and expertise of both an experienced web designer and web programmer who are well-versed in the proper best practices to achieve the results you want.

Smaller devices are ubiquitous and continuing to surge in popularity. Businesses that adapt will see greater success as this trend continues to take hold. Responsive Design is a great tool to help you provide an efficient, friendly online experience for your customers and prospects.

For a free web and Responsive Design consult from TREW’s web experts, contact TREW today.

Related resource:

Website Checklist – Evaluate your B2B Technical Website

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Denise Goluboff

Senior Web Strategist

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